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Old 07-12-2011, 12:37 PM   #1
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Thumbs up Symptom, cause, solution: "Failed to load launcher DLL, specified module" error

The other day I felt like firing up Portal 2 for the first time in a month or two... hey, I'm not really a gamer, hence why I have a laptop with Optimus - GPU is there when I need it, but spends 80% of its life just sitting there waiting to be turned on. Isn't that the story of our lives.

Yeah, so then I went to run it. Plugged in the hard drive where my "steamapps" folder is reparsed to, and fired up Steam. Happy, everything worked. Went to run Portal 2... no update since then? How strange. Oh, this is even worse. "Failed to load launcher DLL: The specified module could not be found". Note, not "specified procedure" or "launcher DLL: (null)", but just that exact wording. It's a legit version of Portal 2, got it with the PS3 bundle deal. So no phony DLLs and no hacks at work here... it should just work! Nope. Oh, Steam has an update, cool. Update yourself then. *click*... huh, where'd Steam go? Crapped itself: in the background, a happy window saying it couldn't connect to Steam. Retry then. Nope, can't connect. Can't connect. Great, another case of the corrupted ClientRegistry.blob. Deleted ClientRegistry.blob, that updated Steam and all, and got Steam to run again.

But did it fix Portal 2's launcher error? Nope. Google returned useless crap... delete the "bin" folder, that did a lot of good (no change), recheck local files, that did nothing - before deleting "bin", it would spend a few minutes rechecking, then complete, but after deleting "bin" it would just complete - successfully - without checking a thing. I tried another couple fixes regarding deleting ClientRegistry AND AppUpdateStats "blobs", and that rebuilt the "bin" folder in Portal 2. Nice. Nope, still the same story: "Failed to load launcher DLL:" (yeah, a blank indicator after ":" - no file, no null, no nothing). Huh. Well, I dug a little deeper. Broke out the Process Monitor and watched the startup process. I saw it gurgling through a couple mysterious random URLs in the filesystem (like looking at "C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\www.appname.com\appname.php?id=blah" and wondering why it couldn't be found), thought that was curious. But finally I saw it: "Steam_api.dll" in the Portal 2 "bin" folder. Missing. Strange, why would it need steam_api.dll in the program specific "bin" folder? But sure enough, Portal has it, all my other games have their own copy... but not Portal 2. It's just missing.

Well, now the question is how to fix it? I google for the name, "steam_api.dll", and of course Google with its hivemind bias, drops me into the black market back-alley Internet of hax & fake versions of Portal 2, script kiddies whining about their patched version not playing, blah blah blah, the only instance of "steam_api.dll" I can find is in reference to someone running a phony copy. No, sorry dudes, that's not me. Thanks for failing yet again, Google.

So I patch together my own solution, so I don't have to re-download that whole uber-massive 11gb game over my pasty 500KB/s DSL connection.

1) Go to "Steam\steamapps\common\Portal 2".
2) Move the "Portal2" folder (inside "Portal 2" with the space) outside that folder... drop it on your desktop or something.
3) In Steam, "Delete local content", to uninstall the game.
4) Create a new "Portal 2" folder under steamapps\common if it got removed (mine still had a "steamappid.txt" file in it or something like that).
5) Move "Portal2" back into your new/existing "Portal 2" folder.
6) "Install" the game in Steam again, and swallow that 11gb download size. It won't be that bad...
7) Watch your Downloads window. It'll show it has 11gb to download, but as it realizes it's all already there, it'll tick... tick... tick down at a rate of about 10MB/s. In about 10 minutes it'll finally have done what "verify game cache" should have done to begin with... verify the damn pre-existing data.
8) It'll also notice that its legit copy of "steam_api.dll" was missing for some unknown reason (probably Steam's slightly-gratuitous-in-this-case DRM backfiring on legit users - oh yay!), and it'll have replaced it with a good copy.
9) Click the game and it'll run, no more bogus "failed to load launcher DLL" error. What a sight for sore eyes...

Figured this info needed to be posted since all the solutions here so far have been utter crap. :/

Last edited by FalconFour: 07-12-2011 at 12:42 PM. Reason: forgot about the failed Steam client update... this info should help debuggers.
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:49 PM   #2
Radical Pi
Join Date: Nov 2009
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There's an easier way to fix this. Right click on Portal 2 in your library, open the Properties dialog. On the Local Files tab, hit Verify Integrity of Game Cache. Steam will think for about 5-10 minutes, then will finish and proceed to update Portal 2, fixing the problem
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:55 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Radical Pi View Post
There's an easier way to fix this. Right click on Portal 2 in your library, open the Properties dialog. On the Local Files tab, hit Verify Integrity of Game Cache. Steam will think for about 5-10 minutes, then will finish and proceed to update Portal 2, fixing the problem
*twitch* Gguuhhhh... DID YOU EVEN READ the posting?

THAT DID NOT WORK. That does NOTHING to solve the problem... Steam did not verify the files... the first time it ran, it burped for about 3-5 minutes, then said everything was fine. Second time, after deleting "bin", it completed (AGAIN, SUCCESSFULLY), immediately upon starting, without testing anything. I could test it a hundred times and it would just pop back with a happy smiley face like nothing was wrong - not even the fact that it didn't actually test anything.

Read... read... read... read.

The key problem is that Portal 2 is not contained in GCF files like other typical Steam games, so it's probably doing its appropriate duty in testing the "NCF" ("no cache file") data and seeing "oh, I can read that just fine", and ignoring the contents of the file. Hence re-installing.
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Old 07-12-2011, 07:41 PM   #4
Join Date: Feb 2009
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Excellent research, Falcon. Where were you three days ago when I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how to fix this?

Managed to correct the problem through alternate means but I'll definitely keep this in mind for future reference. What concerns me most is how this issue even manifests itself to begin with...?
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Old 07-26-2011, 02:33 PM   #5
Join Date: Jul 2011
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where do i find "Delete local content" in steam?
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Old 10-29-2011, 12:02 PM   #6
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Actually what Radical Pi suggested worked like a charm for me, im glad i didn't have to take the long way to fix this.
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Old 10-29-2011, 01:14 PM   #7
Wheezald Locka
Join Date: Sep 2011
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FalconFour, I salute you. I don't have any issues regarding Portal 2 so far, but I really wanted to see this thread since it has "...solution' in its title. Fantastic job.
To the point: did you notice Steam Support about it? Your solution might drown in the forums since it is a specific case, if I'm not mistaken, while this ought to be easily accessed through Steam Support should the problem occur for anyone in future.
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Old 05-08-2012, 01:01 PM   #8
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Thanks for the info dude, and VIoGC does not work for P2.
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